By: Addison Wylie
The sporadic weather and the dropping temperature suggests that watching movies at a classy venue is the best way to stay snug. Lucky for you, the Reel Indie Film Fest rolls into Toronto this week.
The festival opens Tuesday, October 14 at 7:00 pm with Greg Olliver’s Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty and wraps up on Saturday, October 18 at 9:30 pm with the intriguingly titled March of the Gods: Botswana Metalheads. There’s also a closing party the next night at 6:00 pm at Toronto’s Mod Club where awards will be given out to some fortunate films.
The festival has always been on my radar because of its connection to music and its mandate to support and bring original independent works to movie goers. RiFF offers short films, music videos, and full length features time to shine on the Royal’s silver screen, and the price is right for the audience.
The films try to soar with artistic integrity, but Brendan McCarney’s underwhelming Born to Ruin (screening on Saturday, October 18 at 7:00 pm) is a bad example. It’s a doc that shows a band’s passion for music in the most uninteresting ways possible.
I should be careful though with what I define as drab. I didn’t think the film’s leading band Wildlife were boring. The musicians show lots of talent as they lay down tracks, and they have sensible talks when they need to discuss the sound of their next album. The problem is with how McCarney has documented the band’s personalities and hard work.
If you’ve watched enough of these voyeuristic point-and-shoot documentaries, McCarney’s approach will offer nothing surprising. He basically leaves the camera on to capture candid talks, and then clumsily scrambles to lock the camera onto a new subject if the focus switches. Expect lots of in-camera focus checks and shambled repositioning.
This sort of patient filmmaking can work under properly tamed direction. Justin Friesen’s award-winning short film Let’s Make Lemonade about Toronto’s own genre benders Lemon Bucket Orkestra jumps to mind. Friesen didn’t cut too deep, but he kept up a lively pace, and seamlessly weaved the music in with the musicians’ opinions.
I suppose if you’re interested in the detailed mechanics behind the making of an album, Born to Ruin may speak to you. But, McCarney allows his film to drive on autopilot; hoping dearly that the rolling camera gives the audience a keen behind-the-scenes peek at something cool about Wildlife’s creative process and inner workings. Wildlife could have something poignant to say, but McCarney doesn’t show initiative to find that opportunity.
To give the filmmaker some credit, he does touch upon one member’s problematic alcoholism, and how it affects everyone in Wildlife. However, the amateur film handles and displays it in a way that feels as if its trying to convince itself that there’s something resembling substance somewhere in this meandering doc.
In brighter news, RiFF is offering a screening of Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory. If you haven’t caught this inspiring doc about how music has the power to restore memories and lifetime synchronicity, rush out and catch it on Wednesday, October 25 at 9:30 pm. It’s an excellent film. Read my review here!
The music videos I caught fared well. The video accompanying Alive Inside’s screening is Dolman’s Monobrow, and it’s a trippy treat. It’s one of those videos that urges your eyes to glaze over and soak in all its hypnotic wonder. Jaime Pardo’s video reminded me of those animated bumpers you’d see between television shows in the mid-90’s. Sit back and enjoy!
Arrested Development’s UP (screening on Thursday, October 16 at 9:30 pm) is a good watch too. And, the song is catchy to boot. I was mostly impressed by Tony Reames’ visual aspects of his production. The settings are not too exciting, but the sharp editing as well as the frontwards POV cinematography has us hooked.
Lastly, I caught The Pump, a satirical short from director Cabot McNenly that plays on Saturday, October 18 at 9:30 pm. It starts off funny, making fun of one-hit wonders and how fast their popularity sweeps over the world. Ryan Driver is also amusing as the soft spoken founder of a dance move called “The Pump”.
That said, McNenly’s premise works best when the ideas are kept small and simple. As soon as other characters enter the picture and Driver becomes more wordy, the big joke runs itself into the ground.
Visit Reel Indie Film Fest’s official website here!
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